The ventilator-dependent child: issues in diagnosis and management

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1991 Jan;72(1):43-55.


Infants, children, and adolescents with chronic respiratory failure are surviving in increasing numbers and, thereby, producing a significant population of ventilator-dependent pediatric patients. Chronic respiratory failure can occur as a complication of a wide variety of disease states; in pathophysiologic terms, it generally results from either decreased central nervous system output or inadequate force generated by the respiratory pump. Its laboratory hallmark is hypercapnia with or without hypoxemia. Stabilization of the patient with mechanical ventilatory support may permit long-term survival. Management of the ventilator-dependent pediatric patient is a complex task that must begin with an accurate prognostication of each patient's survival and quality of life. Once a decision is made concerning the practicality and appropriateness of long-term ventilatory support, informed choices must be made with respect to need for an artificial airway, mode of ventilation, and location of care. Many younger patients, especially those with intrinsic lung disease (like bronchopulmonary dysplasia), may require a hospital setting for long-term care, whereas others with neuromuscular or central disorders may benefit from being discharged to home. The patient's family must be thoroughly educated in the child's care, and they must be involved in decision-making. A multidisciplinary team of physicians, therapists, nurses, and other professionals is required to deliver optimal care. Outcome is good for most patients who are carefully selected.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Home Nursing / education
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiration, Artificial* / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Ventilators, Mechanical